About Me

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Bristol , United Kingdom
My fourth poetry collection, The Shadow Factory, will be published by Indigo Dreams Publishing in 2019. I am co-director of the Leaping Word Poetry Consultancy. https://theleapingword.com

Saturday, 5 October 2019

National Poetry Day at Her Majesty's Pleasure

Two things I like very much - which also happen to coincide - are the Somerset Art Weeks Festival and National Poetry Day. On Thursday I joined with other West Country poets to mark both, by reading poems on the themes of imprisonment and freedom amid the art installations in B-Wing at the now disused HMP Shepton Mallet.


I'd visited the prison back in May, as soon as I was asked to be part of the project. I knew a place like that would have a grim effect on me, so I wanted to make sure it was a familiar grim effect. Although the addition of some very provocative art installations added another layer of challenge. 


So much of the prison already resembles ladders that lead nowhere, even without the addition of new ones. The only clear view, through non-obscured glass, is of the sky ... Oscar Wilde's 'little tent of blue'. 




Dominic Fisher



Poets waiting in cells to read



In addition to our own poems, works by Homero Aridjis, Dennis Brutus, Imtiaz Dharker, Osip Mandelstam, Harryette Mullen, Irina Ratushinskaya, Marina Tsvetaeva and Oscar Wilde were read.  

The delivery of the poems was excellent throughout; the audience intrepid in the face of distinctly chilly conditions. 





Even though I couldn't read it properly, as I was standing behind it, I was impressed by Kate Semple's poem Unheard Prayer, which was unfurled on a banner while the everyday sounds of prison life, hugely amplified by the acoustics of the place, were played. Its point - the inability to escape sensory overload in prison, and the withholding of silence in which to hear yourself think -  was cogently made, and later, when it started to rain and the noise was amplified on the high glass roof, I was reminded of it again.


The poets with organiser Rosie Jackson.





Afterwards we went up to the third floor where some of the poems were on display. They'd been printed on thin paper so that the light shone through them, and looked as frail and beautiful as hope.

Here's Rosie with her poem ... 



... and here's mine.

It might be presumptuous, but I would like to think that a small restitution had been made. 







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